The Strad's experts evaluate the latest string recordings
Viola Transcriptions. Arrangements by Lionel Tertis and William Primrose of works by Haydn, Liszt, C.P.E. Bach, J.S. Bach, Paganini, Fauré, Rameau–Kreisler, Mendelssohn, Boccherini, Schubert, A. Benjamin, Brahms, Grieg, Kreisler & Saint-Saëns
Lionel Tertis and William Primrose were the two most influential pioneers of modern viola playing, and a recording that pays them homage is always welcome. Yizhak Schotten was a Primrose protégé and thus has a personal connection with this repertoire. Although it was Primrose’s sound rather than his virtuosity that most impressed Schotten as a student, almost all the transcriptions by the great Scot included here are of the virtuoso kind, not least the Paganini Caprices nos.5 and 13 (Primrose’s own debut recording as a violist), that include small but effective amendments to the original violin part. If the spiccato of no.5 doesn’t quite have the jaw-dropping perfection of Primrose’s own recording, the teasing glissandos of no.13 (‘The Devil’s Laugh’) are absolutely enchanting.
I was disappointed that just the finale of Haydn’s Divertimento in D major and the Allegro from Boccherini’s Sonata in A major are included (there would have been room for the other movements), but they compare well with Primrose’s renditions. The Tertis transcriptions are mostly of songs – Liszt’s Liebestraum, Brahms’s Minnelied and Grieg’s I love you among them – and show off beautifully Schotten’s dark, masculine sound. With typically informative annotation by Tully Potter and truthful recorded sound (Schotten here wearing his recording engineer cap), this CD is a self-recommendation for everyone interested in the history of the viola.
Carlos María Solare
From the February 2011 issue. Subscribe to The Strad or download our digital edition as part of a 30-day free trial.